A Franciscan and Fulbright Student

A Franciscan and Fulbright Student

Problem-solving skills help serve the poor

After spending many years with the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, Friar Nguyen Chinh Luan understands what it is to live in poverty.

Fifteen years in religious life showed Friar Luan the importance of taking a more professional approach in service to the poor. At the prompting of his provincial, Friar Victor Abegg, he decided to pursue a master’s degree. One of the California friars encouraged Friar Luan to apply to the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management in Vietnam. After applying to the selective and demanding MPP program, Friar Luan became a Fulbright student in 2020.

As an expression of my religious vocation, I have always sought to assist the poor, orphans, people with HIV, and Hansen’s Disease patients. Everything was done with heartfelt intent. I served them just because I loved them in the spirit of the Gospel. Nonetheless, my management skills were still quite limited. The Minister Provincial said that I should pursue further education. He taught me that love without knowledge can be a kind of blindness, though knowledge without love is empty. So I decided on further professional studies in order to better serve the poor as I always desired to do.

At Fulbright, Friar Luan has taken courses in community leadership, financial management, budget development, and other public administration tracks designed to help policymakers find the best solutions to Vietnam’s unique problems.

What I have learned at Fulbright over the last year has radically changed the way I think, and also the way I live. The curriculum provides a deep dive into the processes of policymaking. We always look at such questions from both micro- and macro-perspectives so that graduates can apply what they learn here in order to solve specific problems in their organizations or communities. These skills are very useful because they not only help one navigate the activities of one’s own organization in a particular region of Vietnam, but can also help to steer that organization through the broader structures of national and regional development, that is, of global society at large.

After finishing his master’s degree in public policy, Luan plans to return to northern Vietnam and build orphanages and daycare centers for children with Down’s Syndrome. Also, he plans to expand the daycare system in the Conventual Franciscan Friary in Thai Binh Province.

I want to assist in the development of more facilities for orphans and for underprivileged people in adjacent provinces. Previously, we just ran the orphanage intuitively, based on our collective experiences of living in Franciscan communities and what we brought with us from our natural families. Now that I have learned more about leadership and management, however, I can certainly see how things can be better organized.